California reels from ‘endless’ storm onslaught; 14 dead

January 11, 2023

MONTECITO, United States: Relentless storms were ravaging California again on Tuesday, the latest bout of extreme weather that has left 14 people dead and prompted evacuation of a star-studded town home to Britain´s Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle.


Fierce storms caused flash flooding, closed key highways, toppled trees and swept away drivers and passengers -- reportedly including a five-year-old-boy who remains missing in central California -- and authorities were bracing for more rain and snow to batter America´s most populous state.

More than 230,000 California homes and businesses were without power as of early Tuesday, according to tracking site A fresh storm is set to pound the state with as much as seven inches of new rain in northern California by Wednesday and “several more feet of snow” in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the National Weather Service said in a Tuesday forecast.

The NWS described an “endless onslaught of atmospheric river events” that is the most powerful storm system since 2005. The town of Montecito, a favorite of American entertainment royalty such as Oprah Winfrey and Jennifer Aniston, was expected to get up to eight inches of rain in 24 hours -- threatening dangerous mudslides on hills already sodden by weeks of downpours.

Emergency authorities in the town 90 minutes from Los Angeles said anyone in the area should get out. “LEAVE NOW! This is a rapidly evolving situation. Please pay close attention to emergency alerts,” a fire department website said.

An AFP reporter saw police roadblocks set up to prevent people from getting into the town, where several roads were flooded. The town, whose multi-million dollar properties are perched in breathtaking California countryside, is particularly vulnerable to mudslides because it sits at the foot of a mountain range that was ravaged by fire five years ago.

Hundreds of square miles of land were scorched in 2017 and 2018, denuding the hillsides of the vegetation that normally keeps soil in place. Devastating January 2018 mudslides in Montecito killed 23 people.

“Over the last 30 days, Montecito has received 12-20+ inches of rain across the community, exceeding our yearly average of 17 inches,” Montecito Fire said on Twitter. “This cumulative, saturating rain puts the community at greater risk of flooding and debris flow.” It was not clear how many of the town´s residents, who also include Ellen DeGeneres, Gwyneth Paltrow, Katy Perry and Rob Lowe, had heeded the call to flee.